After the First Book…
In the past few days, I’ve spoken with a surprising number of authors who have completed their first books and are starting the long, hard process of shopping it around to agents. (Yea, authors!) Every single one of those authors is following the best rule in the Author’s Book: each has started working on his/her next novel.
Alas, some didn’t read the corollary. Some are writing the second book in the series started by the first book.
Here’s the deal: A *lot* of first books never, ever sell. That sucks. Those books are the literary children of our hearts. We’ve learned a tremendous amount from them; we’ve raised the characters; we’ve sculpted the plot into a landscape worthy of our greatest dreams (or nightmares, if we write horror.)
But almost all first books have flaws. They have pacing issues. Or they have plot/subplot balancing issues. Or they have marketability issues. Some of those flaws are so serious that the first book is destined for your “trunk” – for that storage space that you look into in the privacy of your own room.
If you over-invest in your first book, going on to write a second book in the series, you might end up with two books in that trunk. Second books in series come with their own set of challenges. Authors need to provide enough first-book backstory to ease in new readers. They need to construct a plot that stands on its own, but is linked to the first volume. They need to raise the stakes enough to keep old readers interested.
Second books in series are hard.
And second books in series will *never* see the light of day, if first books don’t sell.
My advice, when someone asks me? Don’t write the second book in a series. Write an all-new first book. Create a new world, new characters, a new plot. Harness everything that you learned about writing, and use it in a totally different way. Show editors, and yourself, that you’re in this for the creative long haul. Don’t stop trying to sell your first-first book, but don’t tie your entire writing future to it.
My two cents. Take ’em or leave ’em.
Mindy (who has four trunked novels, each in worlds/situations totally separate from her first sale GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE.)